3 takeaways from South Carolina’s win over NC State in the Women’s Final Four

CLEVELAND — Top overall seed South Carolina defeated No. 3 NC State 78-59 in the first semifinal game of the Women’s Final Four on Friday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

After an even first half, the Gamecocks came out hot to start the third quarter — going on a 16-5 scoring run, forcing NC State head coach Wes Moore to call a timeout with 6:29 in the third quarter. NC State was ultimately outscored 29-6 in the third quarter with the Wolfpack going scoreless for 6 minutes of it.

NC State had beaten No. 1 seed Texas and No. 2 Stanford in order to make the trip to the Final Four. They spoke on Thursday about how they were “party crashers” in Cleveland and said how having an underdog mentality has motivated them throughout the Wolfpack’s deep NCAA tournament run.

South Carolina entered the NCAA tournament undefeated and won an SEC tournament title. The Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley picked up multiple coach of the year honors and now they are one step closer to winning a national championship.

Here are 3 big takeaways from Friday’s first semifinal:

Cardoso is a threat

Cardoso had a monster first half scoring 16 points while picking up seven rebounds. With 1:39 left in the first half she appeared to have landed awkwardly on her ankle while going up for a block. She left the game to head to the locker room but returned in the second half to play minutes in the second half.

“You play to your strengths. Kamilla is a strength of ours. She’s 6’7”. She’s agile. She can command the paint,” Staley said. “She plays with a desire to win. I think she asks for the ball a couple of times as well, meaning get her the ball.”

Luckily her team’s scoring run left them not needing to rely on her post presence as much. Cardoso finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds while playing a total off 22 minutes.

“I knew she was going to be okay,” said sophomore Ashlyn Watkins. “Kamilla is a warrior. She’s not going to let an injury like that affect her. She’s going to push and be ready for Sunday.”

NC State cooled down

The guard play of Aziaha James and Saniya Rivers had led the Wolfpack to this point in the tournament. They were not as hot shooting today as they had been. James had a solid game leading the team in scoring with 20 points, while Rivers was held to just five points. Senior center River Baldwin posted 12 point and nine rebounds while dealing with the touch task of not only guarding put having to go up against Cardoso on offense.

Team play

South Carolina’s team has dominated in many games due to their undeniable depth. The Gamecocks had eight different players contribute to scoring in Friday’s win. This is the reason why South Carolina has been the heavy favorite in games this season. The defensive play was solid and they have multiple players who can shoot the ball.

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